Ballistic missile defense (BMD) is a key component of the strategic military posture of the United States. The latest version is the European Phased Adaptive Approach, initiated by the Obama administration in 2009.
It is a regional defense to protect both our European allies and deployed U.S. forces from a missile attack by Iran. It does not protect the U.S. homeland, and is less than robust against sophisticated attack configurations. Current homeland-deployed midcourse and terminal defense systems unfortunately do not provide the missing robustness.
BMD has been under uneven development for more than four decades. It has been configured with nuclear, X-ray, particle beam, high-energy laser (HEL), explosive fragmentation, and, finally, kinetic energy kill mechanisms. It has survived mistaken strategic barriers including a treaty that perpetuated mutual assured destruction (MAD) and the notion that BMD unavoidably promoted first strike instability. It has encountered political hurdles that constrained the use of space for weaponry, even defensive weaponry. Although those impediments have not been entirely overcome, there is encouraging progress rooted both in technological advances and in a somewhat relaxed political environment.